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Posted by radio On January - 23 - 2013

[By Kagiso Mnisi]


In 2010 the previous Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, gave an address during South African Post Office launch of SumbandilaSat commemorative stamp series.  It was hailed as an acknowledgment of South Africa’s remarkable achievement with the manufacture of its very own satellite. The occasion also marked the first working day of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) Space Operations Directorate. As an underpinning offshoot the possibilities of expanding into satellite radio were also over the horizon.


But crudely speaking, what is satellite radio?

 In its self-explanatory way satellites are involved satellite radio transmission. The technology has with it programming recorded in studios digitally so that the signal contains higher quality sound than is possible with standard radio. That recording is converted into a signal that is beamed up to satellites that orbit earth more than 20,000 miles up into the atmosphere. There the signal is encoded and sent down to a receiver that decodes the signal and plays the sound that people hear.  Unlike commercial radio, which depends heavily on advertising, satellite radio depends primarily on subscription income.


The major players over the years?

Initially US-based satellite radio provider, 1worldspace (formerly known as WorldSpace), had 42 radio stations on its local platform, including Kagiso Media’s East Coast Radio and international stations such as Voice of America. 1worldspace opened its offices in SA during 2005 and received permission to operate while the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) finalized the licensing process for subscription broadcasters. But World Space pulled out of the process in 2007 because it contravened the Electronic Communications Act, which caps foreign ownership on local broadcasting companies at 20%. Another confusion that arose was whether 1worldspace was a broadcaster or an infrastructure provider. Before closing shop in 2009, the company was planning to sell 30% in its local entity to black investors to boost its chances of receiving a network license rather than a broadcast services license. The satellite radio company’s activity has since dwindled; its current play is through Afristar and Asiastar satellites which continue to be maintained in working satellite orbit by Intelsa.


What have been the advances?

As part of its innovation agenda, 1worldspace has since 2006 been working with car manufacturers to install satellite receivers in their vehicles. Analysts have previously said the key to growth in satellite radio was for the technology to be mobile, otherwise satellite radio would struggle.


Some interesting facts

Mobile phone use in South Africa has increased from 17% of adults in 2000 to 76% in 2010, according to research firm Nielsen Southern Africa. Today, more South Africans – 29-million – use mobile phones than radio (28-million), TV (27-million) or personal computers (6-million). Less than 5-million South Africans use landline phones

 In the US, satellite radio has taken off because two big operators, XM Satellite Radio and Sirius, these are available on some cars.


Some local stations using satellite broadcast

TransAfrica Radio is a multi-million dollar media company specifically developed to make radio advertising easier and more efficient across Africa. With its base in Braamfontein, Joburg, TransAfrica Radio utilises a satellite delivery system to transmit quality radio content to its network of affiliate radio stations. The station’s listeners are English-speaking Africans with an average age between of 16 to 49 in Sub-Saharan Africa, and select markets in Europe, the United States and the Caribbean, as well as other individuals concerned about global issues.






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